1. Thompson, Elizabeth M. RN, CNOR, MSN

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November 9-15 marks the celebration of Perioperative Nurse Week, and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has chosen the theme, "Perioperative Nurses: Influencing the Future of Safe Patient Care." This is certainly an appropriate theme for an election year. A new president has been elected as well as other national, state, and local officials. Healthcare issues were at the forefront of this year's election. Candidates established their political platforms and shared their vision for the future of healthcare. Healthcare is on the cusp of real reform.

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Important to all of us

Perioperative nurses have a vested interest in politicians and their positions. Increasing public awareness and regulatory agency interventions have already impacted the care of patients undergoing a surgical procedure. Initiatives to promote patient safety and quality care such as pay-for-performance and transparency are becoming more familiar to consumers and healthcare workers alike. Evaluating and defining quality care depends on metrics. Finding methods of measurement that provide meaningful results and can be standardized among institutions is another issue important to organizations and our patients.


Perioperative nurses are concerned about the nursing shortage, staffing models, patient access to healthcare, and healthcare costs. AORN estimates that there are approximately 160,000 perioperative nurses in the United States.1 As healthcare professionals, we're aware of the issues affecting our patients and we strive to provide safe care for them everyday.


Perioperative nurses shouldn't be afraid to demonstrate and explain their role as providers of safe patient care to the public and the policy makers. During the course of their hospitalization, we recognize that our patients are likely to be at their most vulnerable in the OR setting. Often, they\rquote re sedated or under anesthesia and don't have a voice during the operative procedure. Our role as perioperative nurses is to ensure safe travel to the desired destination. We act as navigators for our patients through the healthcare system and the perioperative process. We do this by effectively communicating with the healthcare team, providing a safe environment, and critically processing, problem solving, initiating, and supporting interventions that promote the best patient outcomes.


Remaining vigilant

I believe the future of influencing safe care for patients is now. Perioperative nurses have the opportunity to take the initiative and affect the quality of patient care individually and collectively. Closely examining and evaluating those processes that support quality patient care will help to contain costs and promote good patient outcomes.


This month, we've had the chance to voice our concerns and convictions through the political process. We can influence the future of safe patient care by continuing our awareness of the healthcare challenges facing our patients, maintaining our vigilance to those issues affecting patient safety, and partnering with other healthcare disciplines to define and support interventions that will help us provide the best patient outcomes. OR


Elizabeth M. Thompson, RN, CNOR, MSN

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Editor-in-Chief, Nursing Education Specialist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.




1. Pyrek KM. Recruitment, retention and respect: The perioperative nurse community\rquote s challenge. Available at: Accessed September 24, 2008. [Context Link]